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Spiritual Materialism

I had two psychics from the Berkeley Psychic Institute read me on Friday (Thanks LJ!). Like dueling fiddles, except it was psychics. My dad wants to start the Berkeley Sidekick Institute - with classes like “Be the best #2 you can be!” and “Capes: colors and fabrics” and “Superhero Co-dependence - the pitfalls of sidekick life”. Having a psychic reading is like looking at the back of your head after you get a hair cut. It's interesting to see - but doesn't really matter since you can't see it every day.

One of the psychics called the Dalai Lama “The Daddy Mama” - an appropriate nickname for the most integrated and evolved public figure on the planet. The psychic said that I should ask my Tibetan Lama past life to recede into the mists of time - having him hang out with me in this life is like letting a bus driver have the wheel in a new neighborhood. No Steven Segal jokes please. But I let my inner Tibetan Lama come out to play at the Dalai Lama “concert” at Shoreline Ampitheater yesterday.

I got there around 8am and found a spot on the lawn facing center stage - and more importantly, behind a cute punk rock girl named Gina who had come down from Oregon. She had been to the last 3 days of the Dalai Lama's teachings and was pretty blissed out. After finding the optimal seat, I went shopping. I probably dropped $300 at the Dalai Lama's gig - $50 ticket, $10 to park and $100 for videos of the 3 days I had missed (a ridiculous purchase as I have no TV), plus a wide array of religious tapes, accessories and crap that I have no room for. In every line I stood in, I made the same dumb joke about going home and rereading “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” - I was laughing, but the people next to me just nodded sagely and looked guilty. The author, Tibetan crazy guy Chogyam Trungpa, would have laughed and asked me to buy him a beer.

The program was The Medicine Buddha Empowerment, which is, well, um….an empowerment. Kinda like an initiation/purification/healing, but the best part is that you can pass it on. It's the most religious thing I've ever seen the Dalai Lama do. His usual show for westerners is “Cultivate good thoughts and be kind and you will create happiness. Minimize negative thoughts and you will minimize suffering.” This seems incredibly simplistic. But the Tibetan dogma is very complex and intellectual - quite scientific in its thorough exploration of the self, the universe and ultimate truth. And it's also quite esoteric and mystical. Yum. The psychics told me that my soul is plenty developed, I need to start enjoying my body. My spiritual self is on the right track - I need to work on being on the earth. Phooey. They actually told me to eat chocolate ice cream.

The Dalai Lama made everyone repeat the Bodhisattva vow 3 times between each visualization. He was quite firm that the power given was not to be used for personal gain - only in service to others. Here's the vow:

With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Until I reach full enlightenment.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
Today in Buddha's presence
I generate the mind of full awakening
For the benefit of all beings.

As long as space remains,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.

Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha was explained to me as “Home, the road home, and your fellow travelers on the way home.” Some of my “sangha” take refuge in movies and beer. Or new cd's and pizza. I take refuge in books and housecleaning. After the empowerment, I went to a picnic and took refuge in barbeque and cigarettes. Something about doing spiritual stuff just makes me want to be a bad girl. Naughty, rebellious angel, I am.

But I did go home and put on my angel costume for the AIDS candlelight march last night. As I was putting on my wings, a bird tried to fly into my bedroom window - but it was shut. The march was beautiful and sad, and more focused on the plight of Africa and the lack of compassion from the UN, the pharmaceutical companies, and the Bush Administration. The tax cut is $1.6 trillion. Africa needs $7 billion for healthcare and prevention. Can you say “greedy bastard”? At the end of the march they had us call out the names of those who had died, and someone yelled “They called him patient Zero!” Very spooky. I got on the “party cable car” to ride back to the Castro, and the song “You're my Angel” came on the PA. I stepped off on Market and 15th and sitting on top of a trash can on the corner was the sheet music to Handel's Messiah.


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